On short mediaPublished on May 12, 2021 546 Words
I used to love anime as a kid. In 5th grade I was introduced to Naruto by a friend through home-burned DVDs filled with .rmvb video files that were so compressed each episode wouldn’t take more than 20MB of space. It was a weird experience initially, since I had no familiarity with japanese culture or watching subtitled media in general, but it quickly grew on me and I caught myself watching dozens of episodes every day after school. Years later, now at the age of 23, I found myself completely apathetic towards anime as it’s been years since I watched a series fully, but recently my passion was re-ignited through a rewatch of Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor with my girlfriend. It led to me watching the first season of Kakegurui and a few episodes of Hunter x Hunter, a series I followed the first few episodes on release a decade ago, in a single sitting.
Just as when I was an 11 year old watching Naruto for the first time, it was a weird experience. I had not watched anime in years, so why now, when I’ve never been busier in my entire life? It took some thinking, but I reached a pretty jarring conclusion, and it has to do with the shorter length of each episode. Compared to TV shows, where the average runtime of each episode is 45 minutes, anime episodes never pass the mark of 25. This means that directors have a lot less time to pad, thus episodes have to be more to the point than TV shows. You’d think this would be an objective detriment to the media, as less time means less development of characters, scenery, etc, but anime specifically finds incredibly smart ways of contextualizing their subjects without exposition, so it loses nothing for it.
Another interesting discovery was that this extends beyond anime as well. Last week Resident Evil Village came out, and it led me to trust this theory even more with its ~9 hour runtime. Throughout the game, the protagonist Ethan is characterized not through lengthy cutscenes (which obviously have their own merit as well), but through mid-combat banter, short cutscenes filled with charismatic people and his hands. Something as simple as Ethan’s hands is used to show that unlike other protagonists in the series he’s not a trained super-soldier, but a mere civilian thrown into a nightmare through the way he handles firearms and reacts to injuries. The latter is something that’s become a meme recently, and is beautifully written into Resident Evil canon by the end of the game. In it’s comparatively short runtime, RE8 manages to accomplish all this along with great combat, meticulous pacing, intriguing plot, and faithful homages to other historic horror franchises (even Resident Evil itself), making it a prime example of how media being short isn’t necessarily a detriment to its quality.
If you’re one of the people who immediately jump to the conclusion that a game’s short run time is a bad thing, I understand but also ask you to reconsider. You might find yourself having way more fun in a 10 hour game than in a 60 hour game. And you might even find yourself replaying it (like Resident Evil games are designed to), increasing your dollar-per-hour value.